Brain injury survivors and their families often ask doctors and therapists about how long it will take for brain injuries to heal. This would seem like a simple and straightforward question, but the answer to this question is actually quite complex. One of the chief factors that makes any such answer so complex is that different parts of the brain may heal at different speeds.
We often talk about the brain as if it were one unitary body part, but in truth it is made up of many interconnected parts. For instance, there are distinct left and right sides of the brain that are connected by a set of neurons known as the corpus callosum. Each side of the brain can be split into many different component parts. These parts function interdependently, but each part has its own unique purpose.
When a survivor received a brain injury, different areas of the brain may have been damaged at different levels of severity. Which parts suffered damage at what levels of severity will differ from person to person and from injury to injury. With so many parts of the brain being impacted differently by an injury, it is very common that a brain injury survivor will see improvements in some areas faster than in others. For instance, if the part of the brain responsible for speech comprehension was less injured than the speech production part of the brain, that survivor will likely gain back the ability to understand verbal communication well before ability to convey information through speech returns. If the part of the brain governing leg movement was less injured than the part of the brain controlling the arms, then that person is likely to see a return of the ability to walk through a doorway prior to being able to once again turn a door knob to open that door. Ultimately, having different skills return at different rates of speed should be understood as a normal and expected part of the brain injury recovery process.
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